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Historic: three brothers, all deacons

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/28/15


A remarkable find, from NBC News: 

Though small in number and rarely recognized, black Catholics in the U.S. have been making significant contributions to the church since 1565. Of the 76 million Catholics in the United States, just 1.5 million are African American according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). St. Mary’s County Maryland was one of the earliest settlements to welcome black Catholics and two African American brothers that helped shape Catholic history are currently residing there. James and John Somerville, along with their now deceased brother Joseph are recorded as the only three brothers who have served together as permanent deacons in the Catholic church. John became a deacon in 1981, James was ordained in 1982, and Joseph’s ordination was in 1986. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are called transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are permanent deacons. The diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. “It’s interesting,” says John, “We became deacons in reverse order of our age. I’m eighty-five, the youngest of the three and ordained first. James is 86 and was ordained second, and Joseph, the eldest, was last. Though Joseph is deceased, James and I are still very actively serving.” The three siblings have worked in several capacities during their combined 79 years in service. John helped establish a pregnancy center, served Catholic Charities in the medical field, feeding and clothing the poor, and housing the homeless. He has also assisted in marriage counseling, youth retreats and worked closely with the Archdiocese of Washington. In addition to working in the parish, James also served at the pregnancy center and worked with Catholic Charities. “I retired at the age of 75 and they added 11 more years to my activities,” says James. “When I resigned, I was asked to continue on. And I’ve been trying to do what I can since then. I participate, really, in anything that comes up.”

Read more. What an amazing story.

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